I will admit honestly up front that the idea of Lopez and Richardson holding a press conference on the club car park made me think at first of Laurence Bassini rocking up at the Nat Lofthouse statue in Bolton with a megaphone to tell the passing punters how he was going to take over the Trotters.
Yet it was clear from the way Richardson spoke to the hastily assembled reporters this was not another car crash interview a la Bankrupt Baz.
Richardson was clear that contracts had been exchanged, that they were at the club to start taking a proper look at the day to day running of the place and that there was an actual possibility that this summer of farce might actually come to a useful conclusion.
Seeing Richardson and Lopez on the pitch and in the Kop stand posing for pictures did make it a feel a bit “Michael Knighton” bearing in mind that the deal isn’t completed – but for the first time this summer I think we have to take a bidder seriously when they say something is happening.
The Press Conference
Although I’ve since been told that Richardson and Lopez were “ambushed” at the ground by Sky Sports News, I think there was a very calculated air in what the would-be new owners did today.
This was no Bassini publicity stunt.
Although the press were there and there were interviews, the longer this went on, the more this seemed more of a power play aimed at Birmingham Sports Holdings and others based back in the far east.
If there had been absolutely nothing in this bid, then the club could have had security escort people off the car park before a word was uttered.
Even if that sounds like it would have been heavy-handed, there seems absolutely no reason at all to me that the club would have allowed Lopez and Richardson in to walk around like they owned the place if there was nothing in their offer.
The more I think about it, the cleverer I think the presser was because it backed the club into a corner to act in a way that gave credibility to the bid.
When Bassini went on TalkSPORT, the club could sit back and laugh as the former Watford owner showed the lack of credibility he had just by opening his mouth.
This was different; it was on the club’s turf and they had no real choice but to allow entrance to Lopez and Richardson.
From what I know Lopez and Richardson had a brief meeting with directors Edward Zheng Gannan and Shayne Wang Yao, but there is nothing to suggest anything of any serious impart was discussed.
Lopez and Richardson are due to meet John Eustace and Craig Gardner tomorrow, which further suggests that something is afoot.
However, all through this both BSH and BCFC have kept their own counsel.
I have heard a suggestion that BSH was requested to make a simultaneous announcement, which they allegedly declined.
Whether that is true or not I cannot say as I’ve only heard it from one source, but the fact remains that without official confirmation from Hong Kong we’re left trying to understand what is going on from assumptions and guesses.
That needs to be rectified and soon, lest this drags on.
Richardson has clearly picked up a thing or two from what has gone on as he was much coyer in talking how his consortium’s bid for the club would work, and how much that was being put in.
Richardson did say on his TalkSPORT interview that the money was partly the consortium’s and partly financed, which has raised a few hackles with fans.
The implication has been that Richardson’s consortium has raised finance for just the first tranche of payments but the truth is we don’t actually have enough information to decide that if the finance is to pay the deposit, the whole sum needed or to fund the club for next season.
I will be honest that my attitude to financing is relaxed on the caveat that none of the finance raised by Richardson’s consortium will be leveraged onto the club in the same way ALK Capital has with Burnley.
If Richardson et al want to borrow money to buy the club that’s their decision; as long as it’s them who has to pay it back it’s down to them to service their own debts and they’ll be found out quickly if they don’t.
Likewise, from questions I put myself to Richardson I now understand that rather than buying the 21.64% stake in the club and the stadium from Oriental Rainbow Investments and Achiever Global Group Ltd, his consortium is actually buying those two companies outright.
While it makes sense to me to just take those companies over, there is an arrangement between ORI and BSH whereby ORI recompense 75% of the club’s losses in the Championship to BSH.
I can only hope Richardson’s lawyers have shut that clause down immediately so they’re not effectively paying twice to keep the club going.
Then there is the arrangement to take over the remaining 75% from BSH.
When Richardson spoke to Brian Dick of the Birmingham Mail on Facebook video, Richardson insisted that deal was “ironclad” and would happen in the next two years or so.
Again, I sincerely hope for the sake of Paul Richardson and his consortium that agreement is watertight, as it would be a horrific situation to end up as a minority investor simply because someone at BSH has changed their mind.
The one thing to remember in this is it’s not complete yet. Richardson himself has said documents have been filed with the EFL which will take a few weeks to process.
These documents won’t be just Owners And Directors Test (OADT) things; Richardson will need to show he has the money to run the club for at least a season in the bank ready.
With the stuff that has gone on this summer already at Pride Park, I imagine the EFL will want to go through those with a fine toothcomb to make sure every single I is dotted and every single t is crossed.
There is one immediate problem the EFL will have to make a decision about, however.
There has been quite a lot of things that happened today which have made me think better of this deal. One thing remains on huge red flag that I believe needs rectifying before it goes through.
I’ve always admired Brian Dick as an interviewer and his dogged pursuit on the subject of a new CEO ensured that Paul Richardson confirmed what the rumours have been saying; that his appointment for CEO will be Matt Southall.
For those who don’t know about Matt Southall, I’ve talked on this website before why I don’t want him anywhere near Blues.
There’s a good read about him on The Charlton Dossier website which I think everyone should read before making their minds up.
Southall was a disastrous appointment as CEO at Charlton, picking up a civil conviction in the end for falsifying information on Companies House.
At the time there were all sorts of allegations about Southall’s spending while CEO which does not make for good reading.
Richardson told Brian Dick that he’d known Southall for years; that he knew of his “history” at Charlton and that he still trusted him to do the job.
I’ll be honest here and say that I’ve told Richardson on three separate occasions that I think Southall is a massive red flag and it would make things much easier for Richardson and his bid if he kicked his would-be CEO into touch.
I’ve actually had some dealings with Southall myself; back in 2014 while running the Often Partisan website Southall was texting me on an almost daily basis about his BCFC2014 group trying to buy the club – a group which also contained Paul Richardson.
That bid was apparently rejected out of hand back then by Birmingham International Holdings (as they were then) due to a “lack of clarity” on where the money was coming from.
Now obviously things have changed, and it’s Richardson fronting the deal rather than Southall, and it sounds like a completely different setup.
Rather than just castigate Southall on these pages, I’m willing to make an offer; if Southall fronts up and emails me or texts me, I’m willing to interview him and allow him to put his side of the story forward as to why we shouldn’t see him as a red flag.
Whether he gets in touch or not, I don’t know.
The key thing to remember in all this is that this deal is not completed yet.
While contracts may have been exchanged, and Instagram pics taken on the pitch, there is always a chance that something may arise which causes issues.
The last details aren’t going to be completed overnight either. This is reflected somewhat in the hourglass that now sits on the MaxCo Capital website.
The EFL will need to do their job, BSH will need to make at least one announcement confirming Vong Pech has exited ORI and the club will need to update us too to confirm it’s all done.
This may be the beginning of the end. For all those people out there hanging their hopes on this, I sincerely hope it is.
While BSH won’t exit fully from owning the club for two years, I hope that Richardson can live up to his word and get the club on the right path once he completes, regardless of what BSH get up to.